Nov 25, 2021
The following commentary is based on the draft Building Safety Bill. It is therefore subject to change and provided for information only.
The Building Safety Bill introduces a new role of the Accountable Person. They will be the duty holder for occupied higher-risk buildings. Each occupied higher-risk building must have an identified Accountable Person.
The Accountable Person will various duties under the legislation, but perhaps the most important is the duty to assess the safety risks of the higher-risk building on an ongoing basis and take all reasonable steps to prevent a major incident occurring, and reduce the severity of any such incident.
The building safety risks the Accountable Person must take into consideration under this duty are those that pose a risk to the safety of persons in or about a higher-risk building arising from fire and structural failure. Whilst the legislation allows for the scope to be expanded in future, the initial focus of the duty is intended to address safety risks that may result in major and rapid onset events that pose the greatest risk to life.
What this means in practice for the Accountable Person is that risks arising from many different aspects of the building will need to be actively managed and considerable areas of building systems and procedures must be in place and compliant to meet the requirements of this duty.
The Accountable Person for a building can be an individual, organisation or multiple individuals and organisations.
You or your organisation will be an Accountable Person for a higher-risk building if:
The Accountable Person may therefore be the freeholder, a housing association, management company, commonhold association, Right to Manage Company or a combination of them. Where there is more than one Accountable Person for a building, one of them will be recognised as the Principal Accountable Person, to whom many of the duties will solely apply. The Principal Accountable Person is identified as the person or organisation who holds the legal estate in possession of the structure and exterior of the building.
In the draft legislation, the Accountable Person has a duty to take all reasonable steps to prevent a major incident occurring due to a building safety risk materialising and secondly, to reduce the severity of any such incident.
Major incident is defined in the draft Bill as one that results in a significant number of deaths or serious injury to a significant number of people. The Government has clarified in its response to the pre-legislative scrutiny that dutyholders must mitigate or control building safety risks regardless of the cause (including electrical and gas failures).
For this reason and to manage risk, Accountable Persons should take a comprehensive and holistic approach to ensure compliance and building safety, rather than overly focus their attention on a narrow range of potential risks.
In summary, the Accountable Person will have the following primary duties:
The Government recognises that the Building Safety Manager has an important role to play in assosisting the Accountable Person meet their duties under the Bill. Having a qualified and knowledgeable Building Safety Manager would therefore be a recommended early step for any Accountable Person.
If an Accountable Person fails to comply with their duties under the Bill, they will be committing a criminal offence. The offences carry a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or up to two years imprisonment.
The legislation as it is currently drafted extends the duty of the Accountable Person to manage fire and structural building safety risks that may result in a major incident. This means that obvious areas of building management and infrastructure must be compliant and effectively managed, such as but not limited to:
However, many other aspects of building infrastructure, if not managed correctly to ensure compliance could also contribute to the risk of fire or spread of fire.
This means a wider range of building systems and management, where failures or issues could lead to fire and its spread need to be considered, such as:
Carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment as required by the Bill to develop a Building Safety Case, using a qualified multi-disciplinary team will be essential to ensure that all risks are correctly identified and a holistic and comprehensive compliance management system developed to manage them.